Pigeon Racer Pleads No Contest to Gambling Charge After PETA Investigation

Oklahoma Prosecutors Secure Pleas for Organizing Illegal Bets on Pigeon Racing; Many Birds Never Made It Home

For Immediate Release:
September 12, 2014

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Oklahoma City – Yesterday, Oklahoma City resident Richard Wayne Mardis pleaded no contest to a charge of violating a felony gambling law, as first exposed by PETA’s investigation of the Oklahoma City–based American Racing Pigeon Union (ARPU), the largest pigeon-racing organization in the country. PETA provided authorities with the evidence that led to Mardis’ plea to commercial gambling.

“PETA’s investigations exposed, for the first time, how pigeon racing is a blood sport that kills up to 90 percent of the birds in every race,” says PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman. “These prosecutions should stand as a warning for anyone looking to profit from pigeons’ misery: There are consequences to gambling with birds’ lives.”

PETA’s investigators documented that race organizers—two others of whom pleaded no contest to the charges in August 2013, including the executive director of the ARPU—discussed how they conceal their illegal betting activities from the authorities, which ran to the tune of $200,000 or more in stakes per race.

PETA’s investigation revealed that in any given one of the ARPU’s races, 60 percent of the birds never make it back to their lofts or mates because of extreme weather, raptors, electric lines, foul play, and exhaustion. Birds who return but who consistently finish out of the money are typically killed by suffocation, drowning, manual decapitation, or having their necks broken. One racer told PETA’s investigators that when starting out in pigeon racing, “The first thing you have to learn—how to kill pigeons.” Mardis and his adult son, who own and operate the Oklahoma City–based Continental Breeding Station, also sell birds to pigeon racers in Taiwan, where PETA’s investigation of pigeon racing—released earlier this year—revealed bird survival rates of 1 percent or less as birds were swept underwater by waves and drowned. Authorities in Taiwan are now investigating.

Photographs from PETA’s investigations are available here, and a broadcast-quality link to video footage is available here. For more information, please visit PETA.org.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind